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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evidence of weak genetic structure and recent gene flow between Bactrocera dorsalis s.s. and B. papayae, across Southern Thailand and West Malaysia, supporting a single target pest for SIT applications

Nidchaya Aketarawong*, Siriwan Isasawin and Sujinda Thanaphum

Author Affiliations

Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Rama VI Road, Bangkok 10400, Thailand

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BMC Genetics 2014, 15:70  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-15-70

Published: 14 June 2014



Bactrocera dorsalis s.s. (Hendel) and B. papayae Drew & Hancock, are invasive pests belonging to the B. dorsalis complex. Their species status, based on morphology, is sometimes arguable. Consequently, the existence of cryptic species and/or population isolation may decrease the effectiveness of the sterile insect technique (SIT) due to an unknown degree of sexual isolation between released sterile flies and wild counterparts. To evaluate the genetic relationship and current demography in wild populations for guiding the application of area-wide integrated pest management using SIT, seven microsatellite-derived markers from B. dorsalis s.s. and another five from B. papayae were used for surveying intra- and inter-specific variation, population structure, and recent migration among sympatric and allopatric populations of the two morphological forms across Southern Thailand and West Malaysia.


Basic genetic variations were not significantly different among forms, populations, and geographical areas (P > 0.05). Nonetheless, two sets of microsatellite markers showed significantly different levels of polymorphisms. Genetic differentiation between intra- and inter-specific differences was significant, but low. Seventeen populations revealed three hypothetical genetic clusters (K = 3) regardless of forms and geographical areas. The genetic structure of sympatric populations slightly changed during the different years of collection. Recent gene flow (m ≥ 0.10) was frequently detected whether samples were sympatric or allopatric. Ninety-five of 379 individuals distributed across the given area were designated as recent migrants or of admixed ancestry. As a consequence of substantial migration, no significant correlation between genetic and geographic distances was detected (R2 = 0.056, P = 0.650).


According to the 12 microsatellite variations, weak population structure and recent gene flow suggest that there is no status for cryptic species between B. dorsalis s.s. and B. papayae forms in Southern Thailand and West Malaysia. Both forms can be treated as a single target pest for the SIT program in an area-wide sense. Additionally, the result of species identification based on molecular data and morphological character are not congruent. The use of independent, multiple approaches in the characterization of the target population may ensure the effectiveness and feasibility of SIT-based control in the target area.

Bactrocera dorsalis complex; Area-wide integrated pest management; Sterile insect technique; Population genetics; Gene flow